Country Kids ends … Connect Preschool begins

St. Michael teacher to run new preschool

SHANNON SMITH

SHANNON SMITH

by Samara Postuma

Contributing Writer

 

Just before spring break, Barb Jongquist, owner and director or Country Kids Christian Preschool, announced that they would not be re-opening for fall 2013.

The announcement came as a huge surprise to many area families who had already registered their preschoolers for the fall. Country Kids began in 1999 in Colonial Mall and moved to Connect Church in 2012.

“Between my kids and kids who have attended my childcare, next year would have been our seventh year attending Country Kids,” St. Michael mom Lisa Braegelman said. “We were sad to hear of its closing and disappointed with the timing of the announcement as many preschools had already completed their enrollment for next year,” she added also wishing “Miss Barb” and her staff the best.

Shannon Smith, Hanover resident, Big Woods Elementary first grade teacher and current preschool mom was interested in finding a way to keep it open. “I’ve just been so happy with the experience that (daughter) Kassidy has had there that I joked to my husband that we should look into it and ended up calling Ms. Barb and then Pastor Bert Sepulvedato [pastor at Connect Church] to talk about plans,” Smith said recently.

Smith’s 3 year old has been attending Country Kids the past school year.

While the preschool has been located within Connect Church the past two years, they have been separate. “Pastor Bert was very supportive if someone wanted to step up and take over the preschool but was clear that he was running a church, not a preschool,” Smith said.

So Smith began the process of taking over the preschool. While she didn’t want to assume the business, she does want to implement the same curriculum and keep some of the same staff. “Ideally we’d like the program and preschool to be familiar,” she said.

“We are thrilled to have Connect Kids preschool at our church,” Rev. Sepulvedato said last week. “While I have only known (Smith) and her husband for a short time, I am excited about their enthusiasm to run a Christ centered preschool program at our Church. The leadership team at Connect Church wants to do everything possible to come alongside Shannon to make sure that this school is successful.”

The preschool name has been changed to Connect Kids Preschool, and a new lead classroom teacher has been hired already. Stacy Liesenfeld, a 2010 graduate of Bemidji State, has accepted the position and has a great amount of experience with ages 2 to 6 over the last three years in both Illinois and Minnesota.

“I’m really looking forward to the wonderful new opportunity to teach at Connect Kids,” Liesenfeld said.

“She has such an innate way with kids,” Smith said. “I think she’s going to be a great fit for the program.”

Rev. Sepulvedato will be visiting the preschoolers weekly to give a Bible lesson and will continue to be a friendly face for the kids. “I want to be a resource, support and cheerleader for Connect Kids Preschool,” he said.

Miss Barb won’t be completely gone either, she’s currently helping Smith collect registrations and process enrollment for next year and will stay on as a substitute for next year.

“We will still be Christian based and there will still be similarities between our program and the previous program but there will also be differences and changes,” Smith said. The hours are moving earlier to accommodate parents of school age kids who are dropping off and picking up around the same times and new playground equipment has been purchased already with plans in place to fence in the outdoor playspace.

Long term, Smith hopes that the preschool will continue to grow and expand. “I’d like to see us needing to hire more staff and continue to expand the program especially because there is more space available within the church that we can use,” Smith said, noting she is also looking into running a few summer camps and adding programs like breakfast bunch and Spanish education down the road.

“I’m hopeful that with my background in the school district we can continue to run a preschool that lays a good foundation for kindergarten,” she said. Smith has been teaching first grade at Big Woods Elementary in St. Michael for the last 8 years.

For more information or to register your child at Connect Kids Preschool, visit www.connectkidspreschool.com or email connect.kids.preschool@gmail.com.

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